Mahesh Narayanan’s third directorial feature film, Ariyippu, his second with Kunchako Boban in the lead, has received critical acclaim and screenings at prestigious film festivals such as Locarno and the International Film Festival of Kerala. Ariyippu, deals with the gritty underpinnings of honour and morality and their dichotomy of impact for the people occupying the lower fringes of the system.
Ariyippu shares the documentary aesthetics of the director’s previous work, dealing with a story that revolves around a minor scuffle in familiar relationships, quickly deteriorating to expose the uncanny immoral impulses that sometimes drive people’s actions. We get the emotionally volatile breakdown of the transactional nature of truth and individualistic dignity, which has become a staple in his films by now, and Mahesh pays his dues to his filmmaking hero Asgar Farhadi in the film’s characteristic mood and narrative concerns.
The story revolves around a Malayali couple, Hareesh (Kunchako Boban) and Rashmi (Divya Prabha), who are in transit and working in a small glove manufacturing plant in Noida while waiting for their much-coveted foreign visas to be processed for their dream jobs. We sense some resentment in their work and poor living conditions, which are exacerbated by fluctuating work shifts that ensure they rarely spend time together in their rundown, cranky one-room apartment.
The above mentioned Farhadi-Shque elements are manifested in the self-contained staging of sequences, mostly in the lensing choices used in capturing the suffocating interiors. A plot is ignited when the marriage nosedives into a complicated mess after a scandalous video involving the wife, which kickstarts the film. We also get the central plot mystery as a device of innate suspense that leads to mind-numbing turmoil and a gradual loss of trust between the characters and their surroundings. This thread runs throughout the film, with no resolution to the emotional turmoil that these characters are experiencing and no hope of redemption in sight. We also get a flabby B plot that is cleverly interwoven with the central plot.
Kunchacko Boban is very effective in a demanding role that requires a wide range in underplaying volatility. His stardom perfectly backtracks to lend heed to the central conflict, capturing the helpless impulses that drive some questionable jumps in his character arc. Divya Prabha’s uncanny eye for behaviour and line readings elevate the story’s innate realism and lend credibility to a one-note naive wife who learns to stand up for her beliefs towards the end, oblivious to the potential disruption of her already sinking marriage.
The film is produced by Shebin Backer, Kunchacko Boban, Mahesh Narayanan, Cinematography: Sanu Varghese, Editing: Mahesh Narayanan and Rahul Radhakrishnan, Music: Sushin Shyam, Production Companies: Shebin Backer Productions, Kunchacko Boban Productions, Moving Narratives.